“And what is a man without energy? Nothing–nothing at all.” – Mark Twain
As an Olympic squad of athletes, when it came to our personal performance, keeping on top of our most precious commodity was critical. That commodity was energy. Once I realised that how I created and spent my energy was a choice and my choice alone it was incredibly liberating. It meant that I was accountable for making conscious choices about my energy and those choices ultimately determined my success, or otherwise. We discovered that we were in control, as long as we had the discipline to take charge.
As energy is a finite reserve there were three challenges:
Maximise efficiency of energy usage to create maximum impact
Maintain momentum and direction
Increase Energy Capacity
In order to address the first challenge below the coaching team and athletes would consistently challenge 2 areas with 3 questions:
Our End Win
What does success look like? What’s the end win? Could we be clearer about our win? By starting with the end we were able to be unrestricted by today’s limitations and current conventions. For us success was not determined by what we had done, to deliver world leading performances we had to perform differently. By cycling through the above questions we were all able to develop our own clarity around what we were aiming to achieve.
Our Planning & Execution
What has to be true to achieve our win? What are our critical Elements? How could we increase our commitment to these elements? As we increasingly developed an understanding of what we were aiming for, we created lists of what had to be true in order to be confident that we could realise the win. By creating this thorough list we were then able to group the items in 4-5 major groups which we called Critical Elements. These were the areas we had to get right in order to achieve our win. It was then a case of planning in what was required at what time in order to make those areas become true. To address the second challenge, maintaining momentum and direction, why it mattered to us and how we went about our campaign ensured we kept on track:
Why are we driven to achieve our win? What’s our purpose? How can we increase the believe in our cause? An Olympic campaign is 4 years long with many people involved, not all of whom will make it to the Olympics themselves. Therefore a medal or world record simply was not enough to keep motived through the long dark mornings of relentless training. We had to truly believe in the cause and be willing to deliver discretionary effort. An inspiring purpose meant that it was far more than just a job and enabled us to buy in to a greater cause beyond a transactional outcome.
How will we be seen delivering this success? What’s our identity? How do we increase ownership of our own behaviours and actions? With many people come many choices, options and opportunities to upset, annoy and frustrate. Ensuring we had a team conversation at the outset and consistently through our campaign meant that we were able to share what we expected from each other and created the permission to hold each other to account if we felt it drifting. We also we very clear about the consequences if we did go off track, either as a team or a player. The third challenge is the ultimate question, how to increase energy capacity. With more energy you have more choices, more opportunity, more chance of success.
What level of energy do I need for an activity? What increases my current energy supplies to max capacity? What frequency to I need to do these activities? Awareness of current energy levels is critical – embarking upon a key session or performance with a lack of energy can be both physically and psychologically detrimental often leading to injury or illness. The answer was to balance three critical areas: 1. Exercise to stress the body 2. Nutrition and hydration – fuel to need not over-feed 3. Recovery to recharge – sleep is sacred, switch off time, digital free, social interaction. By creating a daily, weekly and monthly routine around each area we ensured consistency and over time we re-charged quicker, avoided injury and illness and increased overall capacity.
The results were and continue to be impressive. By knowing how to best use your precious energy, how to maintain it and also how to increase it, we became more resilient, more open to new approaches and ultimately more successful as a team and as individuals.